written by Leander Buchenau, intern at Focus

La Dotta, La Grassa, La Rossa. When Bologna is called by its nicknames, especially “la rossa” (the red one) seems to make sense immediately. The historical city is largely built out of red stone and especially when the sun defies the already rare clouds an overall orange-red light lies over the city. But there are not just architectural reasons why Bologna is named “la rossa”. The local government has been mostly in the hand of socialist and left parties since the end of World War II and the city is known for one of the strongest left-wing mobilisations in the country. Also, towards the end of WWII there was a strong partisan movement which was fighting against Nazi occupation and fascists and giving shelter to people who were persecuted. This amongst other things makes anti-fascism and standing up for your rights highly imbedded into the cities DNA.

So, quite a fitting place for the first international event of “My Resistance! My Democracy!”.

Bologna: international youth conference, November 2023

The project, which is co-coordinated by Focus, enables young people between the age of 15 and 25 years from Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Poland to get together and discuss urgent political topics and ways to oppose them. There have been several national workshops with the first international conference following in early November 2023. The 80 participants (20 per country) thereby do not only just discuss for the sake of it but will also create a manifesto filled with their demands of change. After a second international event in Krakow in early 2024 this manifesto will be handed over to Members of the European Parliament. The project wants to create an opportunity for young people to make their often-ignored voices more heard within the political system.

The first European Youth Conference, which was held in Bologna from 10th – 14th November 2023, was one of the steps towards that premise.

In the beginning of the event, after some time of getting to know each other, the participants selected the general topics for next days. Especially human rights, climate change, consumerism, information and media, migration and education were chosen as discussion points for the upcoming time. Throughout the conference the co-coordinators of Südwind e.V. offered different methodologies to analyse problems, to vision a perfectly handled world and what solutions may be needed to achieve it. Different ideas and thoughts were exchanged with some being agreed on more and other being agreed on less.

Slovenian youth reflecting

Slovenian Group reflecting the first day of the conference

Eventually the group started to narrow down their topics and created first ideas of what they would demand of the European Union. This included a call for measures that e.g. put an end to the brutal EU-border policies, create more therapy places for mental health issues across Europe, take care of a faster transition away from fossil fuels to reduce climate change or create a comparable education system that supports and encourages the students to pursue their individual interests, to just name a few.

To mix things up, the finale of the conference included the chance to express the discussed topics in a more creative way. It was thereby left completely open to different groups of various topics what to do exactly. A tragic theatre play about abortion rights, a short film advocating for a more fair and just school system or a cartoon in which politicians are held accountable for intentional lies were just a few of the highly diverse and original outputs which were presented among the group.

In general, the conference was not solely about creating ideas and discussing them. Things like a walking tour throughout the historical centre, enjoying Italian food together at lunch and dinner or playing cards until late at night in the hotel lobby gave the participants the opportunity to connect outside of the conference room. Something that should not be neglected. A connected resistant youth across country borders that thrives within their similarities but especially their differences instead of fearing them, stays as important as it has always been. Maybe, in a multi-crisis world filled with high-levels of uncertainty, it becomes even more essential than ever.

Overall, the participants expressed their satisfaction and no one argued that it was a mistake being a part of the project. So, the groups were filled with happiness but also slightly tired when exchanging last smiles and hugs on a cloudy Tuesday morning, before everyone took different busses and trains back home across Europe. But it was no good bye forever, as they will see each other again in the upcoming year, at the next stop of “My Resistance! My Democracy”: Krakow.

Več o projektu Moj upor – moja demokracija: https://focus.si/projekti/mojupor-mojademokracija/